View from the ridge top at LaRue-Pine Hills
This is a summary of a presentation I gave recently at the TBY Active Living Expo.
Fall colors have been disappointing during the last couple years, but hopefully this year will break the streak of dullness.
Here is a roundup of quality leaf-peeping places:
If you don't want to drive very far, several places within the city limits of Cape Girardeau offer fine fall foliage. You just have to know where to look.
North Park Avenue:
Hanover Lutheran Church:
Christ Episcopal Church, with the trees of May Green Garden in the foreground:
The fountain on Cape Rock Drive:
Trail behind the Cape Rock fountain:
Old Lorimier Cemetery, which despite the creepiness is actually quite beautiful in all seasons:
River view from Old Lorimier Cemetery:
Entrance drive to Old Lorimier Cemetery (which is technically part of Missouri Park):
Trail of Tears State Park
The state park north of Cape Girardeau is a natural choice for a scenic drive. The Mississippi River Overlook is the must-see attraction, but the park offers other photo opps.
Bald Knob Cross as seen from the park:
Tywappity Community Lake near Chaffee is a hidden gem.
Seventy-Six Conservation Area
This conservation area in Perry County, Missouri, provides access to the Mississippi River. It's located at the site of Seventy-Six, a ghost town that was once a bustling river landing. The Wilkinson Trail, named for the founder of the town, provides a loop through woods, open fields, and even sinkholes.
LaRue-Pine Hills Research Natural Area in Illinois is best known for its population of reptiles. If you don't want to deal with snakes, however, you can wait until November 1. The main road through the area, nicknamed the Snake Road, re-opens to vehicular traffic on that date. This just happens to be right around the peak of the fall colors.
Bald Knob Cross
Bald Knob Cross near Alto Pass, Illinois, features a panoramic view. In clear weather, if you look at the right spot toward Cape Girardeau, you can see the flashing lights from the top of the Emerson Bridge (but the rest of the bridge is obscured by hills).
If you want an adventure, you can hike to the summit the hard way from the valley floor below. Otherwise, the twisty road leading to the cross is scenic in its own right:
Pomona Natural Bridge in Illinois is another easy choice for any season.
The access trail with its rustic fence is a nice bonus:
Route E Byway
Route E between Fredericktown and Arcadia offers an alternative to the heavier traffic of Highway 72. At one point, the pavement is squeezed between Black Mountain to the west and St. Francis River to the east.
In wet weather, a hidden waterfall can be seen from the road.
Due to the narrowness of the road, parking is limited, but there is one pullout near the waterfall that offers access to the river below.
Taum Sauk Mountain
The summit of Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in Missouri, is shrouded in trees. A concrete trail leads to the exact high point, providing much easier access than in the 1930s when reaching the mountain required parking at a "goat herder's cabin" and hiking for several miles.
A nearby fire tower allows access above the tree line to see in all directions.
If you don't want to climb the rickety staircase on the fire tower, then look for the pullout along the access road into the park. An observation deck overlooks an expansive glade that provides a clear view to the north.
Garden of the Gods
Camel Rock at Garden of the Gods in Illinois is extremely popular during sunsets in the fall. Just be prepared to jockey for position against the photographer crowd.